The June Coyote #3466
Jun, Coy, The Juniper Coy...
Boundary: Rain-shadow desert
Nature Features: Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)
Mojave aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia)
Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa)
Barrel cactus (Probably Ferocactus cylindraceus)
White heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides, selectively manifests*)
◆ Growth points ◆
Chin up, kiddo.
Jun is a wry old grandparent figure to troubled ghosts. She wanders the greater Sonoran Desert Region, offering a word of advice or listening ear to those who need it.
◆ Past Life ◆
It's impolite to ask.
◆ Background ◆
The June Coyote is an old, old ghost.
Ok, maybe not that old. But she's been around long enough to know that when you start losing years like housekeys, you're officially old. It's splitting hairs to explain the difference to most of the younger ghosts, though. To them she looks downright promethean.
With good reason. Jun is one of the lucky few who can say that she has truly lived a full life, in both her previous form and this one. Her rich history gives her a unique perspective on things, which young esk often seek out to make sense of this strange, new life.
Jun is more than happy to help them; she has an enormous heart, a talent for storytelling, and a sense of humor drier than the Sonoran Desert. She's no stranger to hardship, either. Though she's frustratingly obtuse about the details of her past life, one gets the sense that it wasn't easy for her. But the hard years have chipped her rough edges away, revealing a steady rock of a woman who is unafraid to be honest and vulnerable with others.
Jun's shrewd eye and no-nonsense attitude has made her particularly popular with the lost ones, the trespassers in the land. She can't say that she knows the same grief that they do, but Jun has found that many of her experiences rhyme with theirs. She is a kindred spirit with those who are newly transformed and struggling to find their way, readily offering them companionship, advice, guidance, tough love, a listening ear—whatever they seem to need most. Her reputation as mentor and guide precedes her.
But the truth is, Jun never saw herself in this position. The responsibility is completely foreign to her. Not long ago she was a young woman, all bloody knuckles and black bile, wrestling with the same ghosts that now haunt the desert. Some days she can only gaze on the sky and ask herself "What happened?"
◆ Nature Features ◆
Ikumiye (Yavapai) ◆ Ocotillo (Spanish, English) ◆ Fouquieria splendens is indigenous to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. It's drought-deciduous, meaning it marks the seasons by rainfall rather than temperature. Most of the time, ocotillos will lie dormant, minimizing water loss as they wait for the next rain event. When the rains blow through, they rush to leaf out and soak in the abundance.
Mojave aster (English) ◆ Xylorhiza tortifolia is a wildflower indigenous to the Sonoran, Great Basin, and Mojave deserts. Wildflowers have evolved a unique strategy to cope with the long dry periods that mark our deserts: they simply stop existing.
At least, until we get a wet year. Wildflower seedbanks can lie dormant for years before the right storm sends the desert swimming in a riot of color. These blooms are fleeting, though, and are sure to be gone the moment things dry up again.
Brittlebush (English) ◆ Rama blanca (Spanish) ◆ Encelia farinosa is a wildly common bush indigenous to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, as well as the chaparral of California and beyond. It's hardy as all hell, blooming with no regard for drought or foresummer heat. In my experience, it's one of the first native plants to return to city lots and disturbed areas throughout the desert.
Visnaga (Spanish) ◆ California barrel cactus (English) ◆ Ferocactus cylindraceus is a cactus indigenous to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Fun fact: These guys grow some of the few cactus fruits that don't have glochids or spines on them. Like other fruiting cacti, they're an important food source for critters and humans alike.
White heath aster (English) ◆ Symphyotrichum ericoides is a wildflower indigenous to central and eastern North America, with its western limit reaching into the Mogollon Rim of Arizona. Native pollinators adore the plant for its nectar, and small birds will eat its seeds as well.
California barrel cactus © Gordon Neish
California barrel cactus © Justin Meissen
White heath aster © Jim Morefield
Note: Because white heath aster is not found in the Sonoran Desert earnest, it only manifests on Jun when she travels the Mogollon Rim or other areas where it is naturally distributed.
◆ Relationships ◆
If Heath offers comfort to the lost souls who blow through his haunt, Jun is the one who comforts the comforter. Heath likes to act like he's holding it all together just fine—especially when those around him are not—but Jun knows that he's not any more put together than she is.
Heath is fond of her for this. It can be terribly lonely in his haunt, and he cherishes having someone around who won't lead him wrong, even when it hurts. It helps that they share a morbid sense of humor and a common interest in the natural world, too.
And the feeling is mutual. Heath has a hard time wrapping his head around this, but his companionship has done more for Jun than he realizes. It means a lot to her—being able to shoot the breeze with someone who is in the same position that she is, reckoning with the heavy yoke of responsibility.
But unlike Jun, Heath chose this path. He gladly shoulders the burden for his community, just like the pastor of his previous life. To Jun, that makes him a kinder, braver, and better person than she.
Senna is like Jun's beloved pain-in-the-ass of a granddaughter. She's quick on her feet, quicker in the brain, and much too smart for her own good.
But where others see Senna as an "insensitive pest" and "a blight on the Earth", Jun sees her younger self. It takes one to know one, after all. She delights in Senna's ambition, curiosity, and contrary ways of thinking; likewise, Senna likes to pick Jun's brain and get her perspective on things. The two are like-minded troublemakers, making harmless mischief as they explore the desert and make sense of the world together.
In fact, Jun has rubbed off on Senna more than she would like to admit. Senna's purpose as an esk is directly inspired by her. Senna thinks that Jun and Heath take too conservative of an approach when dealing with the troubled ghosts of the world—and as a trespasser, she would know. It didn't take a kind word or listening ear to inspire a change of heart in her, but an urgent knife. To that end, Senna makes herself the problem of those trespassers who make problems for others. If they can't listen to reason, they surely won't be able to ignore some unreasonable behavior.
Jun is one of the few who recognizes value in what Senna is doing, even if she thinks its reckless and dangerous. Senna might be reluctant to admit it, but Jun is also one of few ghosts she truly trusts. She sometimes struggles to choose between going her own way and seeking the approval of her loved ones.
Jun straddles the line between a tough old betty and a spry grandmother figure. Her rough-and-ready personality, dry sense of humor, and blunt honesty make her something of an acquired taste. She's not for everyone, and she knows this. But she is also more sensitive to the needs of others than she gives herself credit for. Jun is a fundamentally open-hearted and trusting person, and naturally cultivates an atmosphere that puts others at ease. Those who get on well with someone like her often get the sense that they've known her for years after just one meeting.
Trespassers and Troubled Esk
Jun has an especially strong kinship with the troubled ghosts of the world. There is something about her no-nonsense demeanor and muddled past that calls to those who—consciously or unconsciously—are trying to get better.
To her, it's a bit like comparing notes. She hasn't the slightest clue what "the answer" is; she can't tell anyone how to be a better person, or how to heal the world. But she stands on years of experience and a life well-lived, which shows in her deep affection for the natural world. Perhaps its not her rough edges or her life history that call to others at all, but those moments of tenderness, when she effortlessly pours her heart out for a complete stranger.
Not much is known of Jun to the human world. To them, she is a strange-faced critter known only as the June Coyote or the Juniper Coy. She's thought to be a foresummer phenomenon in the low desert, hence "June Coyote." In the high desert, she is a "shy" ghost associated with pinyon pines and juniper trees, hence "Juniper Coy."
Precious little else can be said of her. Some choose to take her as a bad omen or something like a fearsome critter, but most people intuitively understand that she is a benign presence, and a firm reminder that you're never alone out in the desert.
In truth, she prefers to tread lightly on the memory of the world that she left behind. But don't mistake this for apathy; she cares for the human world as much as she does the rest of the natural world. She just remembers the type of person she can be when she makes herself the star of the show. It's for the best that she has a more subtle touch, nowadays.
Note: This list is incomplete! If you have used Jun as a character in your stories, just let me know and I can add a little blurb.
◆ Stories ◆
◆ Notes ◆
- Jun's energy is dry and reedy, old and youthful. It's a bit like senna rattling in the wind, idle chatter over breakfast, or a ditty in your mother tongue.
- Jun travels widely through the Sonoran Desert Region and its neighboring communities, but rarely outside of it. She is an occasional visitor of the Conservatory, where she likes to catch up with friends from abroad and listen to her elder storyteller, 000.
- Though I use she/her pronouns with Jun throughout this tracker, he/him and they/them are also acceptable. She is sometimes interpreted as masculine, but doesn't seem to mind what language is used with her.
◆ Use ◆
Feel free to reach out if you would like to use Jun as a character in your works. In general, she is a wry old grandparent figure, with a dry sense of humor and plenty of stories to tell. She particularly delights in helping newly-transformed trespassers get their bearings. She is incredibly patient in weathering even the stormiest esk, but she does know how to leave it well alone when there are problems she cannot help with.
Jun can be used as a creator esk. However, her experience with her trespasser friends has led her to be extremely cautious about passing on transformations. She needs a good reason to, and prefers to bestow them on those who will appreciate this second lease on life. She is more likely to create travelers than trespassers because of this. (though exceptions may exist; she would do everything in her power to be there for such an esk.)
God is a word
And the argument ends there
Oh do I feel like the mother of the world
With two children, fighting
Piñon pine. Photo by Emilie Chen